By Tim Leeds
Only a reversed lighting wiring harness kept Jeff Haas and Brent Larson from taking home the first place trophy at the state Ford-AAA Auto Skills Competition in Helena on May 4.
They still took home the second place trophy, along with sets of tools, T-shirts for the competition and $4,000 scholarships. Lodging, meals, a banquet and driving expenses were paid by the sponsors.
Havre High School sent eight students to take a regional written test in Shelby to qualify for the hands-on competition at the College of Technology in Helena. Havre placed first in the state in the combined score for the written. Haas, son of Jerry and Patty Haas, and Larson, son of Neil and Ronda Larson, had the highest two scores in the state on the test.
Ten schools in the state qualified to go to the hands-on competition. The two high-scorers from each qualifying team went to the Helena competition.
Ford will award Havre High with a powertrain module for the high score on the written exam part.
At the competition, the students received work orders describing problems on a Ford Taurus. They then had an hour and a half to find and repair as many problems as they could, then take the car for a test-drive. Haas and Larson found 11 of the 12 problems, including a bad spark plug, a burnt out light bulb, a bad fuse, a vacuum leak and a tennis ball in the intake. The reversed wiring harness was the only problem they missed. Once they found a problem, they took the results to their judge, who had the replacement parts.
Each of the 10 cars had identical problems for the students to find and correct. There was a judge for each team to make sure they did not scout the other teams' work and to provide replacement parts and figure the scores.
Both time and the number of problems found figured into the score. Only one team, the one from Helena, found all 12 problems. The use of the cars worked on was arranged by Ford. Havre High automotive technology teacher Tim Obresley said Havre Ford has always been supportive of the HHS program. Steve Friede, finance manager of the company, arranged to let the students work on a Taurus identical to the ones at the competition so they would be familiar with the model. Obresley said Harlan Schmidt, parts manager, has also helped them out at the school.
Larson said he hasn't decided what he will do now that he has graduated. He said he still might use the scholarship awarded at the competition.
Haas said he will not be using his scholarship. He has already been taking classes at Montana State University-Northern in the diesel technology program and intends to continue there.
Obresley said this is the best Havre has done in the current competition since it started in about 1993. He said the Havre team placed third a few years ago. Havre has attended the competition every year since Ford and AAA started it in 1993.
The winner of the state competition goes on to a national competition in Washington, D.C.